Paramount is gambling that this latest installment of the Jackass franchise will outperform their Halloween staple “Paranormal Activity” this year. While it might seem an odd choice, the rumors about the “Bad Grandpa” spinoff have been circulating since the last “Jackass” film was released three years ago. You would think with all that time off, the slapstick gags might have become more creative.
86 year-old Irving Zisman is on a journey across America with the most unlikely companion, his 8 year-old Grandson Billy in “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa.” This October, the signature Jackass character Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville) and Billy (Jackson Nicoll) will take movie audiences along for the most insane hidden camera road trip ever captured on camera. Along the way Irving will introduce the young and impressionable Billy to people, places and situations that give new meaning to the term childrearing. The duo will encounter male strippers, disgruntled child beauty pageant contestants (and their equally disgruntled mothers), funeral home mourners, biker bar patrons and a whole lot of unsuspecting citizens. (Synopsis by Paramount)
The most obvious question is: what type of parent would allow their child to participate in something like this? Then I remembered what I recognized little Jackson Nicoll from; “Fun Size,” that grossly inappropriate tween comedy from last October. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that Hollywood parents will agree to just about anything for a paycheck. As the “Jackass” films go, this one is slightly tamer, but still not anything a kid under 10 should be allowed around.
Most of the gags are re-hashed at least in part from previous “Jackass” or “CKY” skits. That doesn’t make them less funny, but there is a feeling of seen-it-all-before. There is an attempt at a story to tie the hidden camera pranks together. It works better than it should, mostly because Tremaine has mastered the art of the hidden camera genre. The transitions between the hidden camera and straight film shots are less jarring than expected. There is a definite quality difference in the shots, but it is not as distracting as expected. Even the few scenes where the actors break character feel natural in the scope of the film. There is a certain meta-ness hinted at by Knoxville during a few scenes that is refreshing. He gets that this shouldn’t work as well as it does, and is grateful for it.
Some of the best parts of the film don’t involve physical comedy. Both Knoxville and Nicoll are given scenes where they catch unexpecting bystanders in comedy banter. Surprisingly, most of these scenes aren’t nearly as crass as they could have been. Especially since several of them involve Knoxville inappropriately hitting on women in front of the boy. One of the better ones involves Nicoll trying to get a random guy to be his new dad. The physical comedy should be familiar to anyone who has seen the other incarnations of Knoxville. It’s still funny, but you’ve seen pretty much all of the physical gags in the trailer.
They didn’t bring back one of their most disturbing “pranks” from the “CKY” days. They had a perfect plot point to do this, but thankfully they chose not to go that far again. Yet, they still decided to go with the stripper scene from the trailer. You get what they were going for: making fun of pageant people. That doesn’t make it less creepy when Nicoll starts grinding to Warrant. Laughter quickly went from shocked hilarity to uncomfortable chuckles in the theater. You have to push the envelope with this type of film, but that might have been too far.
“See It/ Rent It/ Skip It”: See it if you are a “Jackass” fan. Everyone else, save it for a mindless comedy night rental.
TWO AND A HALF STARS out of four.
Directed by Jeff Tremaine
Rated R for strong, crude sexual content throughout, language, some graphic nudity, and brief drug use.
Runtime: 1 hr. 32 mins.